The thoughts of my pasta being cooked by possibly foreign workers who had the recipes implanted in their brains and the evident lack of passion in the dishes usually steer me away from this kind of places.
A brilliant case of, is it a Myth or Fact?
Is commercialised Italian food really that inedible or is my taste bud just plain spoilt by the more rich, luxurious and authentic flavours that I have been exposed to?
1. Is it really authentic?
Then again, the question asked is, do they really portray themselves as an authentic Italian restaurant? Or is it because of the name of the restaurant “Italiannies – Pasta, Pizza & Vino” which is rather deceiving?
When the question was indirectly thrown out, there was simply no boasting of being pure 100% Italian. In fact, the menu clearly shows that the emphasis is loosely based on Italian ingredients but adapted to suit the huge Malaysian population palates. After all, it is more profitable to suit just my palate or the millions out there who have only heard of either carbonara or bolognaise, and anything that sounds like vongole or marinara is so foreign that one would think they are ordering an alien to chew on?
In actual fact, Italiannies is an American-Italian restaurant that appeals with the traditional and their originals.
So with the myth that they really serve authentic Italian food thrown out, let us approach the food from another angle.
2. Pricing and value for money
Italiannies have always approached the way it operates with emphasis on value for money. Pasta starts from RM20 odd with huge servings meant for really two. With their latest promotion, you can choose 4 types out of a range of 10 pasta dishes to be served tapas sized for RM29.90. In Italiannies, wine is served either by glass (RM13-RM16) or by “jar” (RM60-RM80).
This versus the usual Italian places I dine with? Lets just say I spend more then that.
Which tasted kind of good actually.
3. The most important thing; is it any good?
Sad to say, there were many areas that tasted average at best. Then again, don’t forget I have been exposed to the non-halal range cooked by true Italians at heart.
Without the use of the distinct smoky flavours of prosciutto, pancetta or simple pork bacon, you are already at a disadvantage.
Then again to my dear readers who can’t eat pork, this is a pork free place where they can be exposed to the censored version of Italian food.
Credits given to Italiannies though, as there were attempts to localise some of the dishes with the use of some dried chilies and shitake mushrooms. There was also effort to show class in the dishes like the lamb shank and showcasing their versatility by letting you try 4 kinds of cold/hot pasta at one go.
Let us go through each dish we went through and see if we can pick the better looking apples from the bunch.
Freshly baked bread with olive oil and vinegar
The Quattro platter
I was once told by an Italian chef, that Italians loved sharing and he aimed to do the same when I asked him to do a menu for us. Generous serves in an assorted platter is nothing but the norm in a typical Italian Sunday Brunch.
Italiannies have come up with a version that serves fried Calamari that tasted very decent, pizza dough balls with a cheese filling and some tempura zucchini and onion shreds. In the middle, the power gorgonzola cheese and the tomato based dip was generously served as a compliment.
The Californian Shrimp Salad
The salad was refreshing with the mango and orange slices and the light cream cheese crumbles. The prawns though, I would have prefer bigger ones to give the dish a good bite to it; even substantial for some as a main. Although not necessary true Italian, it was a salad that I enjoyed especially on a day when you are supposed to “detox”.
The Italiannies Lamb Shank
The sauce was good albeit on the salty side. The mash potato was beautifully flavoured too. Unfortunately when it came to the shank itself, it was hard to carve the meat out. Another two hours or so braising will probably do it better than bad. I have faith that they will fine tune this dish by the time it hits the market.
Did you know that the food are tried and tested among the staff, everyday till it is perfected? I suppose again, another attempt to produce something that will appeal to the public (I suppose by now, I am really the minority).
Finally for the pasta, the ones that I have been waiting for, the whole range that you can choose from then customise which ones you want according to what you like, and voila served unlike stubborn Italian chefs who would only ask you to eat what they serve (just joking).
Back left: Angel Hair Pomodoro – angel hair pasta with chopped red tomatoes and sautéed with garlic in a light tomato basil sauce. Although on the sweet side, it was excellent to start off with, just for the sugar rush to kick in so you can finish the rest.
Back right: Salmon & Lemon Aioli – baked salmon flakes tossed with chilled lemon aioli mayonnaise and baby spinach over shell pasta. One of their cold pasta dish that you can eat like a salad, something new and nothing like the Italian pasta I am used to (not that it is a bad thing, of course)
Front left: Chicken and Mushroom – Shitake mushrooms sautéed with chili chicken tossed with cherry tomatoes & rocket lettuce served with spaghetti. This is a clear example of adapting Italian food to suit our local taste buds. While I didn’t enjoy this much, I saw others having a fun time slurping up the noodles like chili pan mee.
Front right: Chicken Lasagna – Layers of lasagna pasta, creamy cheese sauce, marinara sauce with melted mozzarella cheese and baked until golden brown. One of my favourite dishes as a kid, I can only imagine me order all four serves of this, now? I wouldn’t mind actually.
Back right: Classic carbonara – Fettuccine pasta tossed in light parmesan cream sauce with smoked beef bacon and fresh button mushrooms. At first taste, it was rather alright (then again, the non-halal versions are always the best) but from a taste bud of my halal friend, this is apparently a hot recommendation.
Front left: Clams & Beef Bacon – Beef bacon strips sautéed with fresh clams, onions & clam broth served with fettuccine. More commonly known as vongole, the broth was seafood sweet and tasted again rather edible.
Front right: Shrimp linguine – linguine pasta with sautéed shrimp and served with marinara sauce. The shrimp tails had a good bite to it despite the size and the thick tomato paste was a delight to perk you up for desserts.
Chili Shrimp – lightly sautéed shrimp with dried chilies and garlic over linguine. Again the shrimp was addictive and the use of dried chilies was a familiar flavour as it is used in Chinese cuisine. A good dish to order for your more traditional elderly who rather have their staple diet day in and day out.
For desserts we were served a very rich chocolate and hazelnut cake with a tinge of orange peel and a NY strawberry cheesecake.
Address and contact details:
Italiannies, The Gardens
Second Floor, The Gardens, Mid
Verdict: 3 stars out of 5 stars. There are many areas that I am not convinced because there were no outstanding dishes but being a jack of all trades, there were plentiful of choices and everything was rather edible especially for a quick bite in the shopping mall. Once you get over the fact that this is not your true Italian cuisine but something that wants to make a lot of people happy, you can wear a tiny smile like the many others as you dig into the 4 kinds of pasta that you feel like eating. Did I mention that you can seat in the Godfather’s table as well?
To throw in a bonus; here are more artistic pictures of the pasta promotion: